TreasurePosted on Mar 23, 2014 | 8 comments
In the middle of all the largeness of Florida…the enormous skies and long stretches of sand and the huge waves and crashing surf…we found so many small treasures.
Ever since we studied Florida state in our second grade curriculum this year, Izzy has been on a mission to find one of two things: pirate treasure and an oyster with a real pearl inside. He never tired of endless conversations, his eyes round and dreamy, about the natives on some small Florida island who found gold coins washed a breach their shores several years ago…swept up from the ruins of sunken Spanish galleons and brought into the light by whirling stormy seas. He felt sure that this trip was his big chance to get in on all the glory and adventure of the forgotten and lost bounty of the ocean. He gave it his best and he dug deep. And though, gold was never discovered glinting in the sun, and though the lost pearl was never found cushioned in the soft bed of an oyster…he did find treasure. He sifted through sand for hours and was rewarded with a handful of sharp-pointed black shark’s teeth…the famous and plentiful fossils of the North Point Beaches. Another exciting discovery was miniature clams the size of dimes, that if plucked from the waves and placed on the sand…would open just slightly so the tiny animal inside could dig its way back under the beach and disappear from sight, dragging its little shell house behind it.
On Boca Grande Island out on Gazperilla Sound, we saw a school of dolphins arching like graceful black rainbows through the white-capped waves, feasting on the abundance of fish that the men on shore were desperately trying to pull in. Also, while walking those windy beaches, we watched a falcon snatch a shimmering, slippery fish right out of the roaring waters. The falcon fought like a crazed thing, trapezing through the salty air, trying to keep it’s talons deep into the sliver of thrashing silver…not wanting to lose his hard-earned dinner. We hang onto these moments tenaciously in our memories, as if they were ancient gems wrapped tight in our fingers. Small treasures. Small, like the miniscule bright green and soft, muddy brown lizards that we ran into everywhere…or rather, that ran into us. (Eek!)
On Friday, we returned to Stump Pass Beach State Park for one last frolic in the sand. Parking there was limited…which usually meant a long wait for a parking spot…but it also meant, less people. And then, with only a five minute walk down the beach, there usually could be found a long stretch of sand all to one’s self. Ephraim was a bit melancholy as he had watched men offshore, beach fishing all week, and was so regretful of leaving his beloved fishing pole at home, leaning against the garage wall.
On this particular day, we finally found a spot to set up our towels and umbrellas away from nearly all beach traffic with an exception of one lone fisherman and his sun-bathing wife a short distance away. After the scramble of unloading and lathering everyone up with sunscreen, I pulled on my sun glasses, laid my chair down flat, and closed my eyes…hoping for five minutes of relaxation before the first “Watch me, Mommy!” or the first argument over who got what bucket and what shovel. Suddenly, I felt a long, cold shadow fall over me and heard a deep voice say, “Excuse me, ma’am”. It surprised me so much, that I sat up with a start, and my lawn chair flipped shut, wildly, smacking me in the back. Hovering between me and the sun, I saw an enormous pair of shoulders, a broad sun-tanned hairy chest, and a wild mane of wind-whipped hair. It was the fisherman who introduced himself as “Tom from Billings, Montana”. It did seem, upon appearance, that he would be at home in the West…looking for all the world like a wild steer handler, rather than a retiree whiling away a few hours on a southern shore. He commented that he had been observing my sons as they watched him fish…and that he wanted to let them have a go at it. I must have shown some concern about their inexperience and his expensive equipment…because he reassured me that he had just retired from twenty years as an Outdoor Education Instructor for middle-schoolers, and was quite accustomed to teaching young boys how to fish and hunt. He added to that repertoire that he was also a grandpa missing his four grand-kids… so far away in Montana. Thus, it was that Ephraim’s longing was fulfilled, and he complete with an excellent and attentive teacher, top-of-the-line fishing gear, and expensive shrimp bait…pulled in two beautiful gleaming white Pompano out of the pounding surf with a big white grin splitting his youthful eager face. Of all the people that could have been our “neighbors” for an afternoon on the sand, we found our way to the side of big-hearted “Uncle Tom”…a far cry from the glaring fishermen who threw daggers with their eyes when one of my children happened to romp to close to their meticulously arranged gear. Little treasures. Small remembrances shining like jewels every time we think back…
I met the most darling elderly gardener on Boca Grande…while peeking through an enormous gated entrance to an 1800’s Spanish villa. He had long soft white hair and deeply tanned leathery skin. Handsome and chivalrous, he offered to let me come in and photograph the gardens while he pruned and weeded. I had only time to take a photo of the magnificent walkway through the palms that ended in a graceful stone arch overlooking the rolling ocean before Seth picked me up on our rented golf cart. It was just enough time for the gardener to tell me that twice a year the sun set perfectly in the middle of that arch…drawing photographers from all over to capture this breathtaking fleeting moment. He asked me if I would still be around on March 26th…the next time this phenomenon would take place. My face fell and I shook my head no. He just smiled and said, no problem, that he would take one in my honor. Ah, treasures…small, indeed, but precious.
One evening, while climbing out of the Suburban to go watch the sunset at Stump Beach, Ephraim put his hands in the pockets of the Goodwill shorts I had purchased for him before we left for Florida…and pulled out a wad of well-washed money…a twenty and seven ones..most unfortunately forgotten by the previous owners…and we all hooted and Seth used it to treat me to an order of crabcakes, slathered in lemon and butter. And we were rich on these moments of unexpected goodness and beauty…lavishly poured upon us from a good Giver who loves to bestow gifts upon His children.
For every Egret that ate our morning breakfast crumbs off of the patio, every tropical bird or alligator that we caught a fleeting glimpse of, every flaming strand of Weigela that climbed the stucco walls of the surrounding gardens, every warm ray of golden light, every sailing cloud, we were yet the wealthier…souls spilling over with the priceless wonder of experience.
We return to Ohio with empty pockets, but hearts full of plunder…pirates, if you will, in the most gracious of terms, hoarding up all these glorious glimpses of God, for that day when their flashing brightness will cheer, again, our fainting spirits.